By Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf
Life in this world, especially in this day and age, is a struggle. We all know that life in this world is temporary and a test, and a stepping stone to the hereafter, which is the real life. So, what can we do in this world that has the greatest benefit for us, both in this life and the hereafter
There is a hadith in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) says that the Day of Judgement will not come until a time when people will be respected and honoured out of fear, and the most successful person (in this world) will be the base born, son of a base born.
Have we now reached this time? We live in a society where we have celebrities and superstars who are famous simply for being famous! Young boys and girls grow up wanting to be famous just like them, without thinking of the consequences of it. Today, the easiest way for people to gain recognition is to commit the worst of acts, and such people are the ones young people want to emulate.
To achieve fame because someone has done something good for society or excelled in a particular field is not a problem, and fame can come as a result of dedication and hard work. Everyone has the potential to achieve great heights and do something that brings perpetual reward, even after death. For example, we say rahimahumullah (may Allah have mercy on them) when we remember the great scholars of the past because of the mark they have left on this world. Every time we mention their names, we ask Allah to have mercy on them. This is a real achievement and real ‘fame,’ which has been bestowed upon them due to their hard work.
How did they manage to achieve so much in their short time in this world, such a status that hundreds of years after their deaths we still pray for them? The answer is that their lives had a special enriching component granted by Allah. This ingredient is barakah.
Barakah, the special component
Barakah can be defined as the “attachment of divine goodness to a thing”. In other words, it is the direct help and blessing of Allah Most High. It can only come from Him, and if it is present in something it can transform the nature of that thing and make it more valuable. With a sincere intention to assist others and by making supplication to Allah, He can take our ability, accept it and turn it into something great. As humans, our capabilities can only take us so far. The additional help of Allah is required so that we can fulfil our potential.
An example of His barakah can be seen in a story of a man who was once driving a visiting scholar around London. As they were about to embark on the journey, the man noticed that his car was running low on fuel and that he would have to make a stop soon to fill the car up. During the journey, he became engrossed in conversation with his guest and completely forgot about refuelling, continuing to drive for over an hour. Only later did he realise that he had driven for longer than would have been normally possible with the amount of fuel he had started with. In fact, the fuel gauge had barely moved! This is a clear manifestation of baraka.
Of course, it is not always the case that barakah will manifest itself so openly. We must work hard and pray continuously for barakah. If barakah was granted as soon as we asked for it, it would appear too magical and miraculous for this world, and it would also be taken for granted. We must not become disheartened and lose hope if we confront some difficulties at times. Instead, we must continue to do our best, to ask Allah for his blessing and leave the rest up Him.
In some aspects of life, barakah is more important than in others. Marriage is one of these aspects. We are supposed to be with our spouses in paradise, insha Allah. So baraka in a marriage will help the relationship develop into a strong bond for eternity. In fact, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) used the word barakah twice in one du’a for a newly married couple.
Other areas of life where we should ask for blessing are in our time and wealth. Baraka in wealth gives one contentment and satisfaction and one feels that they are receiving value for their money. Nowadays, despite the fact that technology and other material possessions are there to make our lives easier and save us time, we still feel dissatisfied and struggle to find time to fulfil our responsibilities for both this world and the hereafter. This is a symptom of our lives being devoid of baraka and is certainly something to ponder upon.
Many scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) that came before are revered for their contribution to Islam and for spreading knowledge. When we read the vast lists of their achievements, we may think that they lived long lives, but this is not always the case.
One of the most famous scholars in Islamic history, Imam Nawawi RH lived for just 44 years, yet in his short time on this Earth he authored the legendary Riyad al-Saliheen hadith collection and the Arba’in, a collection of 40 hadiths. Both these books are among the most famous hadith collections despite the fact that Imam Nawawi came after so many other renowned scholars. His legacy lives on to this day.
Similarly, Imam Ghazali RH, an accomplished scholar whose work is recognised in both Western academia and Muslim lands, lived only for 55 years. He has been given the title of hujja which means ‘irrefutable proof.’ That is someone who is a proof of Islam’s truth. He is one of the most respected scholars with regard to his contributions to philosophy, theology and spirituality, and authored a number of inspiring books.
Whenever someone reads and learns from these books, their writers are rewarded. Subhan’Allah, how much barakah must these men have been blessed with in their time that they were able to fulfil their duties and secure a high status for themselves in this world? Taking inspiration from them can help us in our efforts to be remembered for something positive and worthwhile too.
Another inspiring figure who lived a life full of barakah is the caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz (may Allah be pleased with him), who had an even shorter life of nearly 40 years. As the ruler, he was able to resolve the land issues of North Africa in just over two years, bringing such benefit to the people that there was nobody left to accept charity. One particularly distinct manifestation of baraka in his life can be seen when he became the ruler. Having spent the entire night in making the burial arrangements of his predecessor, he gave his inaugural lecture to the people and then by mid-morning, began to head home for a nap to remove his tiredness.
His young son stopped him and asked where he was going. He told him that he am going home for a nap and would return at Zuhr. He was berated by his son who asked how he could take a nap when there were many people waiting for him to distribute justice and deal with their outstanding matters that had remained unresolved from the time of his predecessors. “Can you guarantee your life until Zuhr?” the boy asked his father. At this, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz embraced his son and said “All thanks to Allah who has given me children that can help me in my matters.”
This man who was known as the reviver of the first century was so enriched with barakah that his children contributed to his Islamic welfare and progress.
Some steps towards gaining baraka
Having considered the need for baraka and its advantages, how can we gain more blessing in our lives? The scholars say that blessing is linked to certain actions and qualities.
- Taqwa (fear of Allah): Allah says in the Qur’an, “Whoever fears Allah, He brings forth a way out for him; and provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine” (65:1-2). The Qur’an promises that a person or community with taqwa will never be in need, meaning that Allah will always provide for them. Fear of Allah is very important, and is something that we must work to achieve, and to bring it into all aspects of our lives. May Allah grant us all the good fortune to bring taqwa into our lives.
- Recitation of the Qur’an: Allah says of the Qur’an, “This is a blessed Book We have revealed to you” (38:29). Regularly reading and learning from the Glorious Book can provide us with more blessing in our time and hence ease in our tasks. One hadith states that whoever preoccupies himself with reading the Qur’an to the extent that he neglects asking Allah for things he needs, Allah will give him the best of what people ask from Allah. Clearly, taqwa is a pre-requisite for someone to place such absolute reliance on Allah and for people who attain this level. Indeed they will see the benefit of this.
- Sincerity of intention: Do not do things just to gain wealth, but rather for a higher purpose. Setting goals and working in order to amass wealth for itself will not produce the same results as working for it while also trying to attain piety and richness of the heart. This would bring more happiness than any amount of money.
- Repentance: Sins strip away barakah from our lives, while repentance restores the baraka. Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) had a person come to him complaining of a drought in his community and he was told to repent. Another came to see him complaining of poverty, and again he was told to repent. Another came to see him complaining of not having children, and again he was told to repent. He was asked why his advice remained the same whatever the issue he was confronted with. The Shaykh replied that this was not his own advice. It was the advice of the Qur’an and he cited the verses of Sura Nuh: “Pray to your Lord for your forgiveness. Indeed, He is All-forgiving; He will cause the heavens to rain upon you in abundance, and will help you with riches and sons, and will cause gardens to grow for you, and cause rivers to flow for you (71:10-12).
Now that we know how much our predecessors managed to achieve in their relatively short lives, and comparing it to the daily struggles we face to fulfil even our basic responsibilities, we can see the benefit that achieving baraka will bring to us. We should pray to Allah, perform some rak’as of salat frequently, and ask Allah to accept us for the service of His faith, and ask that He grant us all a way of earning perpetual reward and showers us with His blessings, Amin.
Transcribed by Maariyah Dawood
Edited by Ahmed Limbada